Monday, 23 January 2017

By Patrick Gibbs

The 2017 Academy Award Nominations will be announced on Tuesday morning, and there are a few things that are practically set in stone: La La Land and Moonlight are going to get nominations for Best Picture, Viola Davis is a shoe in for a much deserved nomination (and probable win) for Fences, and Casey Affleck will continue his streak as Affleck of The Year (I love you, Ben, and I have faith that you will rise again. But you had the worst year of any celebrity, and we are talking about 2016.).

All of the nominees I've mentioned above are deserving, but there are always some great films and performances that don't make the cut. The following are not my choices for what should win the individual awards, but rather, they are a group of very worthy nominees that probably won't happen, but should:

Michael Keaton and Tom Hanks for Best Actor in a Leading Role, The Founder and Sully

Keaton is well liked by the Academy at this point after very narrowly missing out on a win for Birdman, but the movie itself has failed to pick up any traction. But his performance as the morally and ethically shaky but annoyingly charismatic Ray Kroc is a standout, and he deserves to be recognized. As for Hanks, no one is going to disagree that he did a terrific job, but at this point it seems that he will have to reinvent the wheel in order to get any recognition (there is a down side to two wins in a row.)

I would argue that Sully, as good a film as it was (and it was Clint Eastwood's best in years), would never have stayed in the air without Hanks at the helm, and a continued streak of excellence for 25 plus years is hardly something that should be seen as a strike against an actor. The mere fact that Hanks was able to escape so deeply into the role, gimmick free, that it didn't even seem weird to see him playing the character on David Letterman (Hanks himself was the ultimate Letterman guest) speaks volumes.

Hailee Steinfeld for Best Actress in a Leading Role, The Edge of Seventeen

So, I'll be honest: I'm rooting for Meryl Streep all the way. I'm a big Emma Stone fan, I loved her in La La Land, and Amy Adams performance in Arrival was even better. So, in theory, I'd very much like to see it go to either of these deserving first timers, but Streep simply gave my favorite lead performance of the year. That being said, I've been disappointed to see the engaging and talented Steinfeld's work in this sincere little gem of a movie get so quickly forgotten, and it's frankly been the only vehicle genuinely worthy of her talents since True Grit (I swear, if it wouldn't stop us from hearing actual spoken dialogue from Luke Skywalker, a big part of me would be rooting for Trump to tweet us right into a nuclear holocaust just to save me from Pitch Perfect 3.).

Sam Neill for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Some would argue that this was a lead role (he received top billing), but young Julian Dennison's Ricky Baker (Happy Birthday!) was clearing the main character. But take Neill's hilarious and touching performance as "Uncle" out of the mix and one of the year's most delightful films just doesn't go anywhere.  A superb veteran actor who never gets his due, Neill has belonged in this category since his other incident being hunted (aboard the Red October), and I can't think of a surprise nomination that would please me more.

Nina Ariande and Sofia Boutella for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Florence Foster Jenkins and Star Trek Beyond

Thsee two have no chance of happening, and you are probably scratching your head trying to figure out
who Nina Ariande even is. But if, like me, you melted into sobs as Agnes Stark, the sassy, uncouth wife of an insecure dilettante, stood up to the crowd of jeering soldiers to defend Florence's right to sing, you know exactly why she deserves this nod. Never has the word "@$$holes" been so inspiring (at least not until the next time people stood up for Meryl Streep's right to be heard on stage.)
                                                                       
Sofia Boutella brought great presence and charm to the vulnerable and venerable Jay'lah, and if the character seemed a bit campy it was because she fit in perfectly eith originsl 1960's series. Boutella gave the film an identity beyond being merely the latest sequel in the franchise.

"No Dames!" by Harry Krieger for Best Original Song, Hail Caesar!


This howlingly humorous and haplessly homo-erotic send up of old fashioned Hollywood song and dance numbers was probably the highlight of the entire film (though George Clooney's Biblical epic speech, peppered by the reactions of Clancy Brown, was a close second) and it a live performance would be one of the highlights of the awards broadcast.

Shane Black & Anthony Bagarozzi for Best Original Screenplay, The Nice Guys

This clever and creative 70's noir Lethal Weapon Meets The Big Lebowski buddy detective comedy had me laughing out loud throughout, and frankly, I'd love to see Black get an overdue nomination and steal some of Tarantino's overhyped thunder.  From the extremely quotable dialogue to the delightfully convoluted series of twists and turns that all come together seamlessly, The Nice Guys was one of the most entertaining films of the year, and all of it was firmly grounded in the page.

Melissa Matheson, Best Adapted Screenplay, The BFG

More than just an obvious sentimental choice, this is a very worthy one. Roald Dahl isn't the easiest author to adapt, and The BFG doesn't follow nearly as clean and simple a narrative structure as Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. But Matheson caught the essence of the book perfectly, while opening up the cinematic possibilities and providing an added layer of depth. Matheson took a truly squiffling children's classic and turned it into a screenplay that is truly whoopsy-splunkers, and that's not just hyerbole.

Jeffrey Ford and Matthew Schmidt, Best Film Editing for Captain America: Civil War
This one shouldn't need a lot of explanation, because the airport sequence alone is enough to make a serious contender. With so many elements to bring together, and tight pacing an absolute necessity, the team behind Team Cap and Team Stark did amazing work.



Jon Favreau for Best Director, The Jungle Book

You might think it was all about the effects. Of course it was, but someone had to have the vision to use those effects, well . . . effectively. It took not just a good director, but a visionary one, to not only make this look real, but feel real, on every level. The interaction between Mowgli and his C.G.I. companions was more convincing and engaging than any of the human on human interaction in Maleficent, and Favreau's painstaking attention to detail and passion for the material shone through in every frame. He broke new ground while staying planted firmly as a storyteller, and in doing so created pure magic from beginning to end.

Best animated Feature, The Little Prince

I have to be clear that Zootopia and Kubo and The Two Strings are my two favorite animated films in years, and it's hard enough to choose between them. But this beautiful adaptation of the classic novel isn't getting the awards recognition it deserves, primarily because its wide release came not in theaters but on Netflix. The same thing happened with Beasts of No Nation, and while I'm as big a proponent of the big screen, cinematic experience as anyone, if streaming services give great independent films a chance to be seen, the Academy needs to be a lot more open minded when it comes to recognizing them.

Greig Fraser, Best Cinematography for Rogue One

For all of the talk about shooting The Force Awakens old school in order to avoid the digital look of the prequels, Fraser and director Gareth Edwards made the ARRI ALEXA not only look like film, but film in the 1970's.  Rogue One had an old fashioned, classy and timeless look that really makes its status as a companion piece to the original classic work, and if that doesn't deserve some serious kudos, I don't know what does.

Sing Street, Best Picture

The other great musical of 2016, this captivating coming of age tale from John Carney, the director of Once, tells the story of a boy who starts a band as an excuse to talk to a girl, and in the process finds himself.  Emotional, inspiring and insightful, Sing Street is also very funny, with energetic performances (both acting and singing) and a great message about staying true to who you are while never forgetting who and where you came from.  It also has a great soundtrack full of songs that quite literally just keep getting better. A wonderful film that deserves to be remembered.


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